Distance & Online Learning

Tips for succeeding in the virtual classroom

Distance learning has become a fixture in the world of education, but the skill set required for success is somewhat different compared to traditional educational environments. Distance and online learning are more self-directed, as you will have more freedom to set your own schedule and your "classes" will typically consist of digitally delivered lectures and instructional modules. Rather than attending classes at a specific time, you will usually set your own schedule and access these materials through an online portal. With that in mind, here are some tips and pointers to help you make the most of your mobile learning experience.

5 Tips for Successful Distance Learning

Here are some proven strategies for helping you make a successful transition from traditional classroom-based learning to online distance learning:

  • Understand the expectations. When the instructor provides you with your syllabus or course outline, make a note of all your important due dates. Look ahead to the major assignments, essays, tests and examinations so you know what will be expected of you, and when you are expected to complete core course requirements. This will help you direct your studying, as you will always be aware of how the course material relates to upcoming assignments.
  • Create a schedule. Even though mobile learning gives you more freedom to set your own schedule, you can't just haphazardly study whenever you find a free hour here or there. You need to create a learning schedule and stick to it, whether this means you make time early in the morning before you attend to other responsibilities, like work and family, or in the evenings after everything else is done for the day. Successful distance learners schedule blocks of time for doing their course work, and they stick to the schedule they create.
  • Set up a work space. It helps to create a quiet, well-equipped and well-lit work space where you can concentrate on your studies. If you don't have space in your home, consider working from a library or a quiet café. In fact, going to another location can help "set the mood" for studying, as it will force you to concentrate solely on the task at hand.
  • Identify your goals. Break down your work into small, manageable chunks and work systematically to achieve study goals according to a progressive schedule. Creating a sense of forward direction is a great way to measure your progress and stay engaged with your courses, and it will almost certainly prove to be a boost to your overall performance.
  • Communicate with your instructor and your fellow students. Staying in touch with your instructor is another great way to heighten engagement with your online studies. Also, with online learning, it is common for a portion of your assignments to require interaction with other students, through online forums or message boards. This can help diminish the sense that you are studying "in a bubble," which in turn can provide you with extra motivation and a greater sense of connectedness, both of which are crucial in self-directed learning programs.

If you find yourself in need of help or support, reach out to your course instructor or engage in online discussions with your fellow students. Should you be having problems adapting to online learning, don't wait until it's too late to speak up. Instead, be proactive about finding the resources you need to make the necessary adjustments in the early weeks of your online courses. You may also be able to adjust your course schedule so that you're taking fewer classes at any given time while continuing to work towards program completion requirements. Starting out with a light course load then ramping up as you become more comfortable with the distance learning environment is a great way to make the transition easier.